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Monday, May 3, 2010

Our Family Truths ~ Evaluating Reading Materials ~ Part One

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is being able to keep what I call an online journal.  I am able to write about so many things that are going on in our lives and put my thoughts down in a somewhat organized, succinct way...although there are many times I feel like a rambling blogger!  But, I thought it would be beneficial to let you all know a little bit more about the Fowlers besides the little glimpses of our lives.  I thought it would be nice to let you step inside our philosophies of life and share with you how we feel the Lord has led us in making certain decisions for our family.  I do want to say however, that I am NOT sharing this to say that if your family does not follow these guidelines they are wrong.  What your family does must be done in light of Scripture, prayer, the leadership of your husbands and the personal vision you feel is best for your family.  The things I hope to share with you over the next few months are areas God has spoken specifically to OUR family.  However, I do believe the Bible is very clear about what it addresses.  It is not a book of grey areas...on the commandments God states in scripture, there is no debate.  What God calls sin is sin whether your family or my family interprets it that way or not.  I read a quote just recently that I really like...it went like this.  "Right is still right if no one is doing it and wrong is still wrong if everyone is doing it."  In our society, where so many things the Bible calls sin is the norm, that is something that would be well worth remembering.  
      One of the first areas the Lord directed us when we were young parents was in the area of reading materials.  What is appropriate for our children to read?  What is a proper criteria to judge a book we would buy to add to our in-home library?  This is not always an easy assignment and as we have grown in our role of parenting, our views have shifted over the years.  We try desperately to look for materials first of all that are Christ honoring.  Therefore, we have a lot of books from publishers like Lamplighter and continue to add these to our library when monies allow.  It is so important to watch what our children read.  Books truly do influence us for good or for evil.  I can see that many things I read as a child had negative influences on me and helped form ungodly ideas in my thinking.  Therefore, we try to evaluate books before the children have a chance to read them.  We have also found that we have trusted certain curriculum choices and bought books that we have later gotten rid of because they did not match our families philosophies.  So, how do we go about evaluating books?

1.  Does it honor Christ?  That should always be the first question when deciding on reading material.  Not every book we have is written by a Christian author.  Many of the classics are not written by Christians.  But, just because they are deemed "classics" doesn't mean our children have to read all of them.  How many adults do you know today that are versed in all the classics?  We try to make sure that our desire to provide our children the best education possible never trumps our desire to encourage them in Godly living.

2.  What religious views does the author hold?  Everyone comes from a religious viewpoint.  Even athiests, by not believing in a god, hold to a god-less religion.  Those views will influence every aspect of who they are, and in turn, will influence their writings.  If you read a book by a feminist author, often times you will find women in the story who feel trapped by their homelife.  They "want more."  Many times they will usurp the God given roles of their fathers and husbands to make a "better" life for themselves.  Don't underestimate how these "ideas" put in the form of a well-written story can influence young minds.  What is the author's view of family?  Every author has one...does it promote what you are teaching your children?  This is the very reason we stopped reading the Berestain Bears books.  In most of those books, you will find the father is portrayed as a weakling.  The mother is the only one who seems to know what to do in situations...and the children just humor their father...well, because that is just the way Dad is.  This attitude of showing men as weak and ignorant is pervasive in our culture...we certainly do not want to promote these ideas in the books we read to our children.

3.  Does it have occultic practices?  You would think this would be an easy one huh?  I thought so too.  We don't do Harry Potter because of it.  However, we have been great fans of "Lord of the Rings."  Well, that is written by a Christian right?   And for the record, I am not trying to put into question Tolkein's salvation.  However, whether I like it or not, the character Gandalf in those books is a wizard and God is perfectly clear about His view on the subject of witches and wizardry.  I would not have had a problem with the book if Gandalf had been portrayed as evil.  But, how can I read in the Bible that God calls this wicked and then read to my children about Gandalf the "good wizard?" 

   "When thou art come into the land which the LORD they God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations:  There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a chamrer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a nercromancer, for all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD and because of these abominations the LORD they God doth drive them out from before thee."  Deut.  18:9-11

 Remember that TV show "Bewitched?"  Once again, calling good what the Lord has called evil.  Merlin in "King Arthur" is also troublesome to me.  Some would say that we are overreacting.  After all, isn't "Lord of the Rings" Christian in its themes?  Well, good does win out over evil.  But, if that "good" is made of up a wizard, would God call that good? When I know what God says about sorcery, I really cannot imagine sitting down and reading these as bedtime stories to my children if He were sitting there listening in person.  If I err, I prefer to do it with a heart that takes what God says as He says it, rather than making excuses for why this practice is acceptable.  This was probably the hardest decision for me personally.  The "Lord of the Rings" books were my favorites as a child and I did read them to my children years ago.  But, I never felt easy about the wizardry and it was my husband that made the decision to not make these books reading material for our children anymore.  I finally had to come to the conclusion that at times, I value my pleasure (reading, viewing, etc.) above God's commandments.  To water down what God calls evil is just allowing me to get used to the dark.  If I do not make a distinction with my children now, then when they leave my house, will they watch things that dabble in this area?  Will games, computer and otherwise be acceptable, that have "good" witches, wizards and warlocks?  I don't want my children to justify such practices to me by saying, "Well, you and Dad let us read ______, or watch_____." 

I hope to post part two in a couple of days.  Pray about what you are reading to your children.  Does it honor God?  Does it fit with your families goals in training your children?  God bless!  Until next time! 

5 comments:

Camille said...

Very good post Jackie and wonderful advice! I agree with you on the content of books even if deemed "innocent"...everyone DOES come from a certain viewpoint and children (especially) are esily influenced by what they feed their minds with. I never have read the "Lord of the Rings" series, but we did rent the movie years ago and it wasn't long before it was shut off due to the spiritual content...it became increasingly difficult for me to watch. We must all be careful not to sear the conscience that God has graciously given us.

Thanks for posting!
In His Love,
Camille

The Heaton Family said...

God bless you for this post! It is a very important topic to address. It gets easier and easier in this culture to let some of these things slide - to let our guard down 'just a bit' in order to fit in with what other families deem appropriate. But it is not what other do that we should base our decisions on - it is the Word of YHVH, like you said.

Amein

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

I wrote about this in my "Princess Syndrome" post. I was reading an innocent princess story to my daughter and it has some alarming messages that I had never caught before. I took the oppurtunity to explain to her who this thinking was wrong.

We are careful about what our children read and watch. We also take the teachable moments when we do run across something that is disturbing to explain to them what the Bible says about that.

When we read a children's book and the child is being selfish or nasty, we always talk about why that it wrong and how would God want us to act.

Lois said...

What a great topic! I laughed because you and I both see in the Berenstain Bears the same "family values". My husband always refused to read them. I admit, the earlier ones are cute, with rhymes, but the newer ones were politically correct and definitely showed a weak father, the butt of all the jokes. My two kids, 12 and almost 15, keep asking to read the Lord of the Rings for our reading time. We did read the Hobbit, but I told them if they want to read them they'll have to do it themselves. They are old enough, and we've had many a family discussion, with Dad leading, on the darkness of evil. I would, however, read the books with them before we'd ever watch the movies. (And we probably won't.)

In the Christian community, I'm alarmed to see many who read the Harry Potter books and justify them. It is hard to stand firm with your convictions even when people in your church or homeschool group see no harm in watching certain movies, attending homeschool dances, and DON'T get me started on "Christian" rock.

I'm glad your family seems to have found its balance. As ours is approaching those tender years of youth, where decisions are starting to be theirs and not ours, I'm constantly in prayer that our children will choose to stand firm for their Lord, as a result of their own convictions, and not legalistic rules set forth by us, their parents.

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I can't wait to read the next installment.

His bondservant said...

Lois,

It is indeed hard to stand firm when even the Christian community thinks some of these things sounds legalistic. Even curriulum choices we have made that we trust, will have some of these books as reading material. But, that is why it is so important to be like the Bereans...to constantly be checking everything by the Word of God. It is nice to know there are others out that, however, who do hold the same values...even through blogland!!

In Christ,
Jackie